Branding a threat of an unlimited strike from January, the Common Front demanded on Wednesday an intensification of negotiations, affirming that the adoption of an agreement for the renewal of collective agreements in the public sector is possible this week.
The authorities of the four centrals which make up the union group confirmed on Tuesday an unlimited walkout mandate adopted earlier. But their leaders have sent the signal, each with their own estimate, that it could take just a few hours to resolve the issue this week.
During a press conference, the president of the Quebec Federation of Workers (FTQ), Magali Picard, recalled that less advanced negotiations were resolved in a little over 24 hours.
“This is a serious time,” she said. Everyone wants an agreement in principle before Christmas. I am convinced that the government wants one and I can confirm that our members also want one. The population would like to see that. »
The president of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), Éric Gingras, estimated that a settlement is possible within 48 to 72 hours if work accelerates at the negotiating tables.
“There are days until the end of the year, there are days until Christmas,” he said. You have to be able to move forward. »
Blitz and bluff
The first vice-president of the Confederation of National Unions (CSN), François Enault, called for a “blitz”, longer negotiation sessions at the tables.
“We should meet for more than 15 minutes a day,” he said.
According to him, on a scale of 10, the progress of discussions is at 5 at the tables of the various sectors, and at 6.5 at the central table, where salary issues are discussed.< /p>
The president of the Alliance of Professional and Technical Personnel in Health and Social Services (APTS), Robert Comeau, for his part, mentioned a possible outcome quickly.
“For us, it’s not advanced enough,” he said. But we repeat, in 24 hours, in 48 hours, we can achieve results. It takes will on the part of the government, it takes openness, and that is what we expect. »
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Representatives of the Common Front recognized that discussions have intensified recently, as the President of the Treasury Board, Sonia LeBel, said at the beginning of the week.
No date has been specified for a possible indefinite general strike in January. Magali Picard said that an assessment of the situation would precede the decision to walk out.
“There’s no bluff,” she said. It's not complicated for the four of us here to say: we send a notice, in 10 days, everyone is in the street. »
Ms. Picard asked the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, for the financial room to maneuver necessary for the government to respond to union demands.
The Common Front brings together 420,000 union members represented by the CSN, the CSQ, the APTS and the FTQ, particularly in the health and education sectors. So far, the grouping has engaged in two episodes of limited general strike, for a total of 11 days, the longest period in its history.
Legault in the tunnel
Ms. LeBel's office indicated that she would not make any comments following the Common Front's statements.
“We are focusing on the negotiations at the tables and we are maintaining the objective of settling by Christmas,” replied press officer Marylène Le Houillier.
The Common Front rejected two weeks ago the government's proposed wage increase of 12.7% over five years. Prime Minister François Legault had already shown himself open to improving it. He then affirmed that “things are likely to get mixed up in the coming weeks” with the unions.
Last week, Mr. Legault expressed the wish that children could return to school on Monday, which did not materialize. Given the situation in negotiations with health union members, he also predicted that no settlement would be possible before January.
Ms. Picard mentioned the population's support for union members to criticize the Prime Minister's approach.
“He is hitting the wall, for me, François Legault. He drives a car the wrong way through the tunnel. All the cars are facing him, and he continues to be convinced that he is the only one who is in the right direction. »